#544 Elementary school science fairs

It all starts with poster board.

Getting mom to drive to the drug store to load up on the thick flimsy is a great start to a great project. Grab a sheet of white, a sheet of neon pink, and if you’re lucky one of those thick cardboard three-folds. Come on, we both know that cardboard added some scientific integrity to your research — the seventh grade equivalent of getting your work published in The New England Journal of Awesome.

Now, it doesn’t end there. Next you’re grabbing markers, spray paint, baking soda, and Styrofoam. Once you’ve got everything together you’re rushing home and getting down to science, people. The carpeted corner of the unfinished basement becomes your lab and it’s time to spend hours putting on lab coats, staring into microscopes, and pour bubbling green liquids into beakers. Also, taping.

Come on and let’s count down some classics:

6. The solar system. Jabbing those spray-painted Styrofoam balls with a straightened out coat hanger is a truly great feeling. As is painting a splotchy brown Australia on Earth and a big eye on Jupiter. If you want to go the To Scale route, remember to leave Pluto at home.

5. Volcano. There are two types of eruptions. First, there’s the Underwhelming Fizz — where you stare deep into the mouth of the fiery beast only to witness some rock-hard hunks of baking soda floating in a pool of strong-smelling vinegar. It’s disappointing, but you can always try again and hope for a Superblow — where everyone stares with wide-eyes as red ooze bubbles and slides down your carefully painted volcano onto the GI Joe townspeople below.

4. The one the kid’s parents obviously did. Also known as robbing your child of the thrill of scientific discovery in exchange for a B+.

3. Growing something. Whether it was lima beans or patches of fresh grass, it was a a classic move to study Sunlight vs. Shadows, Music vs. No Music, or Watering Plants vs. Pouring Coke On Them.

2. Coke is bad. Speaking of Coke, did you have that kid who left a tooth or some nails sitting in it for a month? The groundbreaking research typically concluded with a harsh indictment of the entire soda industry. And maybe a business card for the kid’s dad who was a dentist.

1. The one that didn’t work. Every science fair had a few of these gems. They were sad and beautiful at the same time. Because that down-faced ten year old standing in front of a dim lightbulb was learning how to deal with lost efforts and how to get back their drive after a fall. Keep that chin up, tiger. You’ll get ‘em next time.

Yes, beautiful science fair moments were always a perfect close to months of hallway passion, energetic teachers, and long lonely nights cutting construction paper letters with pinking shears. Letting kids learn, letting kids dream, letting kids try and try and try — well, there’s just so much good that comes of that.

As they bottle insects, jab battery wires into lemons, and rub magnets together, you can see the whirring gears spinning with delight. Yes, all that learning just sponges, soaks in, and sticks there forever as the next generation of curiosity seekers tease their buzzing minds forward and forward and forward…

AWESOME!

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#545 Watching a movie in the basement with a group of friends

It’s better in the basement.

Give us the stained couches demoted from the family room. Give us those plastic walls full of pink insulation. Give us those cold floors and thin carpets.

Give us that dark cave hidden from the outside world.

Give us a group of friends hanging out.

And give us a screwball comedy.

Yes, it’s time to order that pizza, fall into the squishy couch, pile pillows against each other, and pass the fuzzball blanket. It’s time to enjoy a good movie with a group of friends — ideally featuring several of these characters:

The Waiter. Sure, the host usually covers this job — filling popcorn, pouring Pepsi — but if the gang’s super tight someone else can take it on. If you know your friend’s pantry well and they don’t mind you raccooning around, feel free to take orders and go digging for gold.

The Punchline. This is the person who adds the live DVD commentary from the corner of the couch. He generally tries to top the characters onscreen and his favorite line is “That’s gotta hurt!”

• The Revealer. The Revealer saw this movie already. You find that out the first time they say “Shhh! Good scene, good scene!”

• The Maestro. This is a high pressure role that involves owning the remote control for the entire movie. The Maestro is responsible for determining which bathroom breaks are pause-worthy and when to rewind and rewatch an important scene. Also, they must be comfortable cranking the volume if The Revealer (“Good scene!”) and The Punchline (“Gotta hurt!”) start talking too loudly.

• The CG Judge. Does that plane crash look fake? Do those dinosaurs look real? The CG Judge offers instant analysis on all special effects scenes.

• The Dimmer. This person is obsessed with movie theater atmosphere. Ten seconds into the movie they frantically start on mad dash to turn off every light in the room. This seems like a good idea until someone has to Blind Man’s Bluff their way up the rickety stairs to go to the bathroom.

Now, every group’s got their own cast of characters. It’s good to love them all and it’s good to love those moments.

After all, friends grow up and graduate, some people change and roll on, and life wheels and deals us in all directions. So love those late nights in sixth grade with root beer and double cheese pizzas. Love those 4am Fridays in high school when everyone’s friends and everything’s funny.

Just remember those long nights, strong nights, and staying up till dawn nights. Smile hard at the smiles, laugh loud at the laughs, and always enjoy those basement movie memories … with your basement movie friends.

AWESOME!

Photos from: here, here, here, and here

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#546 Running to the door when your mom or dad comes home from work

After playing, playing, playing, you finally hear the car pull into the driveway, the boots clomp up the steps, and the key sliding into the front door.

Time to drop what you’re doing and run full throttle down the hallway for a big welcome back celebration.

AWESOME!

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#547 Finding treasures in your spring jacket pocket

Dig deep, baby.

When the weather warms up and the snow melts down, it’s time to pull out that thin dusty jacket from the back of the closet and toss it back on.

Now, just make sure you stuff your hands deep in those pockets and see if you can’t score some buried treasure that’s been held there safely all winter long:

1. Your favorite lip balm. You thought she was lost so you bought some cheap imposters from the drug store to tide you over. But now that greasy beauty’s back in business, baby — faded packaging, slippery tube, linty plastic cap and all.

2. A pack of gum with only one piece left. The top is probably folded down and creased over that one remaining rock-hard rectangle. You can give it to a friend or enjoy the minty molar-shattering experience yourself.

3. A Good Times receipt. This is an old crinkly receipt from a great night out a long time ago. Maybe it’s a birthday dinner, a grad party, or a wild girl’s night out on the town. When you stare back at that distant receipt and slowly remember where it’s from, you’ll eventually end up smiling at the memories. Good times.

4. That one really good pen. That smooth flowing ball point never gets lost. No, it just goes on long vacations to your jacket pockets, pencil cases, or board game boxes.

5. A contact lens still in its packaging. Say goodbye to your blurry winter.

6.  Green, shrunken orange. The bad part is you can no longer eat the orange. The good part is you get to smell like musty citrus for a couple days.

7. Travel pack of tissues. Sometimes if those small packs have been sitting for a while all the lint molecules try to escape from their plastic prison. When you zip open your pocket you catch them coating your liner in the middle of their slow and methodical jailbreak.

8. Random phone numbers. Sometimes I pull out a piece of scrap paper and there’s just a phone number on it with no name, no context, no nothing. I silently curse my lazy former self and spend a minute debating whether or not I should just dial it up to solve the mystery.

So come on, now — finding buried treasures deep in those jacket pocket caves is a bit like Christmas in the Spring. Yes, you score some tiny little presents from your past as you start a fresh new season with big beaming smiles and heartwarming reunions with some dear old friends.

AWESOME!

Want more awesome things?

Photos from: here, here, and here

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#548 The moment in the shower when you decide to make it a really long shower

It’s a bad scene.

Alarm bells buzz when the clock clicks six and I become a barely blinking lump of groggy stretching noises that sound like Chewbacca after he’s been shot. Honestly, it’s a pathetic scene — me lying there with drool stains on my cheeks, deathbags under my eyes, and some bent and jagged bedhead.

Eventually I stumble into the shower and feel my eyes burning and begging to return to the cool and shady Cave of Closure. But I soldier on, shower on, soap on, and slowly let that hot steam wake me up.

Sometimes I just can’t let go.

No, sometimes I enter a little steam dream in the shower and end up slowing down and thinking to myself: This is good.

This is really good.

This should not stop.

Yes, in this magic mist of steamy smiles my brain quickly flips into Nothing Else Matters Mode, where all other thoughts just wash away in favor of showering a little longer and living for the day.

Hitting that moment in the shower where you decide to make it a really long shower is a great feeling. As the hot water beats down into your swirly, steamy headtrip, you get to relax and enjoy a few extra minutes of

AWESOME!

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#549 School field trip day

It all starts with the permission slip.

Yes, when teachers send them home before the bell rings so parents can rubber stamp the bumpy yellow bus trip to the museum, then it’s on, my friends, it’s on.

Soon the days count down and the buzz builds up as the class gets ready for the day away from school. The middle-ages unit wraps up at Medieval Times, paintings are handed in before the art gallery, and everyone mails a friend a letter before the tour of the post office.

On the morning of the big day you wake up with some extra pep in your step because you know we’re all going far away. It’s time to skip the portables, soggy sandwiches, and long afternoons with the Spanish teacher.

It’s time to do something different.

It’s time … to go for a ride.

Yes, whether it’s the petting zoo, chocolate factory, or a long hike in the woods, it’s time to enjoy the school vacation with some of the following perks:

1. Subs in the house. Taking thirty screaming seven-year-olds to the planetarium is a bit much, so most teachers call in backups in the form of parent chaperones. These subs act like a sweet and sweatered army of substitutes and don’t know enough names or have enough power to mess up the fun. Of course, that’s assuming they’re not your mom or dad. If that happens, your day is done.

2. Wheels on the bus. They go round and round on the way there and back. Yeah, we all gang rush into the slippery seatbelt-free seats and enjoy a loud, laughing party on wheels. There are loud screechy songs, secret makeout sessions, and some friendly gestures at passing motorists. This is also when the classroom’s social structure is on display too — from the cool kids at the back to the nerds sitting with the teacher up front. I really did love sitting up front though. I mean, how about that view?

3. Sealing it in. A friend and I were strolling quickly through an art gallery a couple years back when we stumbled on a group of kindergartners holding a rope and looking at splotchy art paintings. I’ll never remember the jaw-dropping look of pure head-tilting amazement from the little boy at the end of the group — eyes twinkling, mittens hanging out his winter coat, and his whirring brain soaking and swallowing up something beautiful on the wall. And it’s true: field trips often help seal in the learning. Chalk one up for school.

So… let’s enjoy the memories, let’s enjoy the moments, and let’s enjoy the parking lot speed bumps. Yes, let’s all love those special days when dusty chalkboards fade away and buses wheel us down the freeway, far away, far away, far away.

AWESOME!

Check out  The Book of Awesome

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#550 When your roommate cleans the place while you’re away

My friend Peter has a theory.

We were aimlessly chitter-chatting the other day when he mentioned he only does housework when his girlfriend isn’t home. I thought it was a bit strange but Peter patiently broke it down for me in three big points:

1. Hugs and kisses. When his girlfriend shows up after a long day with her bangs sweat-glued to her forehead, she’s not always in a great mood. But when she notices the all rock-hard tomato stains scraped off the stovetop and the telltale blue-tinged hint of fresh toilet bowl, her mood cheers right up and Peter scores some love.

2. Ditch the guilt. Then there’s the big problem with cleaning up when your roommate, boyfriend, or wife is lying on the couch. While you’re straightening magazines and vacuuming in front of them, they feel guilty for chilling out. Forget the hugs — this time you’re scoring a big sigh, some lazy stinkeye, and a half-assed helper.

3. Mr. Perfect sightings. Okay, my place is a mess. Sometimes I fall asleep on dirty clothes, use my dryer as a dresser, and end up with rock-hard macaroni-and-cheese dishes in the sink for weeks. Peter’s not as bad as me but he’s no Mr. Perfect, either. But see, that’s just it — the beauty of his plan is that he gives his girlfriend a chance to daydream about her boyfriend cleaning all day. Sure, the truth is that he was probably stuck in Tube World in Super Mario 3 for most of the afternoon, but that clean countertop, spotless mirror, and fresh vaccuum streaks on the rug  give her hope.

Showing up after a long day to a freshly cleaned place is such a great feeling. Toilet paper has replaced the Kleenex in the bathroom and  the rat-sized dust balls hanging out behind the TV have been whisked away. Now you get to enjoy an evening with someone you love in a sparkly new joint.

So three cheers for organized shoes, three cheers for empty sinks, and three cheers for your place looking a lot less dumpy. Yes, if you feel this buzz you’re living with someone special. So make sure you give them some hugs and kisses.

Or, if they’re out right now, maybe go make the bed.

AWESOME!

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#551 Photosynthesis

Plants convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into oxygen which allows us to live.

AWESOME!

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#552 When you went to the gym yesterday

Because now you can take a break today.

AWESOME!

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#553 When a friend returns something they borrowed so long ago you forgot you owned it

We’ve all been there.

Sometimes good friends draft the first season of your favorite DVD or stuff your tattered paperback in their saggy backpack before heading into the trenches. When you say goodbye that night you smile strongly and act brave but there are hot salty tears in your eyes.

Because you never know.

In the first few months Season 1 of ALF is serving the nation you think about him constantly and try to make sure he’s safe. You casually ask about him at parties or dream up plans to steal him back from your friend’s cold, dark basement.

Sadly, despite your best efforts, eventually the gappy bookshelves and empty jewel cases at home get dusty and memories get lost in the swirling swallows of time. It’s a funny thing but I suppose after enough calendar flips and changing seasons your thoughts just slowly fade away.

Maybe one year you upgrade your DVDs, stash your CD collection in the attic, or move apartments and put all your books in storage. Maybe one year you eventually just … forget.

It’s sad but it’s true.

Flash forward a few years later and you’re quietly making grilled cheeses for the kids on a sunny afternoon. Dogs bark in the backyard and kids play in the street when suddenly the doorbell rings. You’re not expecting anyone so you wipe your wet hands on your thin flowery apron and swipe your bangs behind your ear while rushing to the door.

You swing it open and as sun splashes into the house your eyes pop wide and your jaw drops open like a mailbox. You can hardly believe it! It’s your old book, slightly tattered, slightly battered, but finally home. Tears well in your eyes, a lump forms in your throat, and you pick it up and hug it like no time has passed at all.

Sure, your life had moved on, your kids had grown older, and all the framed photos on the fireplace mantle were slowly replaced. But although your mind moved on your heart just never ever forgot.

So even though it took forever today we say thanks, old friend. For finally bringing it all home.

AWESOME!

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